PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Since the turn of the last century, families trooping to neighborhood tree lots like Hahn’s Nursery in Ross Township are lured by the fragrance of freshly cut pine.

It’s a time-honored tradition in the days before Christmas.

Bob and Joanne Galardy have a system for picking the perfect tree.

“Usually we see one like right away then spend about half-an-hour to 45 minutes looking at all the other ones and go back and buy the one we originally picked out.”

But there’s another big decision for tree lovers. Do you choose fresh or do you choose fake? And which is more environmentally-friendly? You might be surprised.

“People think that it’s being more green by using an artificial but it’s really not,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Garden Columnist Doug Oster said.

He gives the “greener” nod to live trees which are 100 percent biodegradable and recyclable.

“Because a real tree is a sustainable crop,” he explained. “It’s just like a field of corn. When they cut down a tree they’re planting another one probably two.”

The artificial beauties at Pool City have come a long way since the first fake trees were produced by a toilet bowl brush company. They’re even fashioned to show old and new “growth.”

Ninety-percent are imported from China. Shipping from overseas enlarges the carbon foot print. Constructed of metal and plastic, most end up in landfills after six years. But the longer you hold on to it, says Oster, the more environmentally-friendly it gets.

“And when you’re done with it you can donate it as opposed to throwing it away because it’s never going to decompose,” Oster said.

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